RBMA: Clams Casino

This year's Red Bull Music Academy in Madrid took on 60 exciting new musicians, holding lectures & events with legendary figures in music as well as newcomers like the New Jersey hip hop producer Mike Volpe

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Housed within a set of huge architecturally stunning buildings, The Matadero, this year's Red Bull Music Academy relocated to Madrid, inviting out 60 participants who fought tooth, nail and MPCs to get a place on the highly sought after music initiative. The finalists on the unique programme consisted of a mixture of established but relatively new producers like Brenmar, XXXY, Doc Daneeka, Nightwave, Krystal Klear, Canblaster, and Om Unit - as well as rising talents like Jesse Boykins III, Fiordmoss and Cha Cha who's recently worked with Kode9. Setting up a creative hub for musicians alongside a series of live events, DJ sets, and in-depth lectures from the likes of legendary producers Tony Visconti, Erykah Badu and Bootsy Collins, to newer artists like Hessle Audio's Pearson Sound, or Peaches - the Academy acted as an educational as well as inspirational environment for producers from all across the world.

Celebrating true diversity in musical programming, one of the final nights in the second semester held in an old slaughterhouse invited their guest DJs to specifically play various formats, with Greg Wilson on reel-to-reel, Hatcha playing dubplates only, whilst 24-year-old producer Mike Volpe aka Clams Casino played an iPad set. An interesting one having released his stunning EP on cult electronic label Tri Angle Records, as well as producing for the likes of huge rappers like A$AP Rocky, Lil B, Main Attrakionz and Soulja Boy. We spoke to Mr Volpe over our 15th can of cranberry flavoured energy drink straight off his set after he flew in from New Jersey, about how he makes his lush, layered melancholic sounds...

Dazed Digital: Do you feel like it's a relatively new thing that hip hop and electronica have been overlapping or has it always been like this?
Clams Casino:
It's new and it's not… It's new to me to find out how related it is. The stuff that I put out on the [Tri Angle] EP was just stuff I made to try to get people to rap on. Without words, people call it electronic, you put words on it and it’s hip hop… I didn't realise it until recently but it’s all related really, just names and what people want to classify - all the hip hop stuff I make is on software so it’s the same thing to me really.

DD: When you produce your tracks, are they based around the idea of the vocals that might be put on them or is that a secondary issue?
Clams Casino:
I don't usually think about it, I just send it to people and see what they come up with and put on top of it. So I usually don't think about anybody on it, I kinda just make it and see what anybody else can do with it.

DD: Have you ever done any vocals yourself, like thought about rapping?
Clams Casino:
Haha no, only a long time ago when I was like messing around with my friends... but not seriously, no I can't do that!

DD: Whilst a lot of hip hop can be really aggressive, the complex melodies and layers in your music almost comes out like the opposite, was this an intentional element you tried to work with?
Clams Casino:
I don't really do that on purpose, I just think like I put so much stuff on it... I usually don't make stuff when anybody's around, I usually just make stuff when I'm on my own - like I make the most stuff when I'm by myself, just spend hours relaxing, throwing stuff on top of other stuff. It just comes from being there alone, I just kinda leave it like that... if I was in the studio and someone started rapping I'd probably stop! But yeah there's layers 'cause I'm on my own...

DD: Across your songs you've used quite different vocal samples & things apparently usually sourced from internet? Do you think there’s a link between the samples that you're drawn to?
Clams Casino:
I think there is, I don’t know exactly what – I just realised not too long ago maybe that I only use vocal samples for the most part - after a while putting it together, after a while I just like their voices, like Bjork, I just like her voice, I could do a lot of crazy stuff with it. Adele - I like her voice a lot for different reasons, but it's just a really good voice, I can twist it and use it - but basically I like sounds that are different, I really like listening to voices that stand out to me..

DD: With the availability of the internet, do you think electronic music can become quite saturated as everyone has access to the same things – does it make it harder to be a producer now or easier?
Clams Casino:
I don’t know what it was like before the internet, 'cause my time has always been around it… But maybe I think it's easier now, there's so many people trying to get out there - there's so many people trying to do the same thing, but if it’s different - it will stick out without even trying, people will know when they hear something they like. Most of it out there is like garbage but people can tell when you're really in to it - they'll find out where it is.

DD: Is there anyone you're listening to now? Any collaborators you’d want to work with?
Clams Casino:
I'm not listening to much really, I’ve been shutting everything out for a while. Stuff I listen to is Lil B, old Lil Wayne – that’s it… as far as new stuff, not much. Most of my favourite rappers are the ones that I work with, you know like Lil B's one of my fav rappers, I’ve been working with him for like over 3 years, just crazy cause I listened to him, he was in my favourite group – and I just hit him up, it’s crazy for me that I can do that - Cam'Ron, Lil Wayne - people I grew up listening to. Main Attrakionz.

DD: What are you most excited about right now?
Clams Casino:
Just people's reactions, like online and Twitter right now, I'm able to connect to people who are really serious about my music it's just crazy - or like hearing how much they relate to it or whatever is the most exciting thing.

For more RBMA and to check out lectures from Madrid go to www.redbullmusicacademy.com

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